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Chevron told to close pipeline after second oil spill in Salt Lake City

The temporary closure, ordered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, comes after two spills in six months. The first leak spewed 800 gallons, the most recent 500 gallons.

December 10, 2010|By Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Denver — It's not quite the Gulf Coast, but Salt Lake City has developed a persistent problem with oil spills. The federal Department of Transportation ordered Chevron this week to temporarily close a pipeline running through the city after the second spill there in six months.

The first incident happened in June while the BP spill was gushing thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. The Salt Lake City pipeline, which carries oil from a western Colorado terminal to a Utah refinery, leaked, sending 800 gallons into the Jordan River. That river runs through the city and empties into the Great Salt Lake, a major bird refuge.

Then, on the evening of Dec. 1, the pipeline leaked again as temperatures plunged below freezing and a valve cracked. This time, 500 gallons of oil spilled toward a local creek, though only trace amounts have been found in the water.

A Chevron spokesman said the leaks were "highly unusual" and promised a full examination of the latest one.

The order from the Department of Transportation, issued Wednesday evening, requires the oil company to submit a detailed plan before it can restart the pipeline. In the meantime, some of the oil is being trucked to the Salt Lake City-area refinery.

Lisa Harrison-Smith, a spokeswoman for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, noted that the pipeline runs over the water table that supplies more than 1 million people in the metro area. "How in the world," she asked, "does something like this happen six months after the original spill?"

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Chevron formally apologized for the leaks. "We pride ourselves on being a good corporate neighbor and will work to regain the trust of the Salt Lake community," the company said.

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